NYC Geographical Birth Index - Manhattan - 1885-1889 a
- Publication date
- Public Domain Mark 1.0
- Reclaim The Records
What are these records?
This is a digitized roll of microfilm of the New York City Geographical Birth Index. Unlike the "regular" New York City birth index, this record set was arranged by the place of birth of the child (as recorded on the birth certificate), rather than arranged alphabetically by the surname of the child of of the parents.
Because many phonetic and spelling variations and handwriting errors may be present on old original birth certificates and in the "regular" city birth index, it is sometimes difficult to find a record for a person who was born in New York City in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This is particularly true if the child was born to an family who had recently immigrated to the United States, as was the case with more than one third of New York City residents in that time period. Having an index like this that is searchable by address instead of a later-standardized surname spelling can enable researchers to find people who were indeed born in New York City but whose certificates were later said to be "missing" by the city government.
How did these records get online?
The non-profit organization Reclaim The Records requested and obtained copies of these microfilms from the New York City Municipal Archives, with some help from the New York State Freedom of Information Law (FOIL).
The records had never been available to the public before, unless one was sitting in the Archives building using their old microfilm copies, and had never been online anywhere. Reclaim The Records paid for brand new 1:1 microfilm copies to be made from the original "vault copy" microfilms. The non-profit organization FamilySearch generously donated their time and labor to digitize the films and create the digital copies.
What is the format of these records?
The records were usually handwritten but occasionally typed onto 3x5 index cards, with the exact street address at the top of the card. The cards were broken up into six categories: the five boroughs (counties), plus a section that combined all births that took place in New York City area hospitals, workhouses, prisons, and other public institutions. Within those six categories, the records are then broken up into sections by year. Within each chronological section, the cards are then in alphabetical order by street address within that borough, or in alphabetical order by the hospital or institution name.
Each microfilm roll may have more than one year on it. Some rolls have multiple years all together on the cards; for example, the four years of births for 1885-1889 for Manhattan were all written together in a four-year batch on the same cards. And then those cards would continue over multiple microfilm rolls
Or, for example, one microfilm roll might contain all births in a certain borough for just the year 1900, arranged by the alphabetical order of the street names in that borough. And after the last street name in the alphabet is done, the same roll may continue on with the births for the following year 1901, starting from the beginning of the alphabet again.
Sometimes the very beginning or very end of a microfilm roll may have "retakes" that are duplicative of other records on that same roll.
Finally, please note that some of these cards are very difficult to read. The original handwriting wasn't terrific, and the city's original microfilm vendor didn't always do a great job adjusting for the proper contrast levels or the focus. These microfilms that were digitized here were made from the city's "vault copies", so they truly are the best copy available to the public. If you're having trouble reading a particular card, you can download it to your personal computer and try playing with the contrast to see if that might help.
Usually, one of these 3x5 cards will have the street name and the street number in large print at the top, i.e. "251-300 Clifton Pl." meaning that this card is collecting all births that took place at house numbers 251 Clifton Place up through 300 Clifton Place. The card will then have several columns on it: the exact house number (i.e. "253"), the surname of the child (i.e. "Walker"), the given name of the child (i.e. "George" but sometimes only listing the child's gender i.e. "Male"), the exact date of birth (i.e. "5-4-99"), and finally the birth certificate number (i.e. "8305"). Once you have the birth certificate number, you can use it to look up or order the actual certificate from the city records.
Some names on some cards in some years have an asterisk next to the names. It in unclear what the asterisk was meant to denote; two theories are that it is the birth name of a child who was later adopted, or it is a child that died soon after birth.
Some of these 3x5 cards have a notation or stamp on them indicating that the birth certificate being indexed was a "special" or delayed birth certificate, filed long after the child's birth. This usually happened when the child was grown and needed a birth certificate copy for work papers or induction into the armed services or their initial Social Security registration, and discovered that they did not have or could not locate their original birth certificate, and therefore needed a "special" or delayed one issued by the city.
Note that this "geographical" birth index was created for many decades longer than is online here, and was kept up to at least the 1940's, possibly even later. However, those later years of the index are still being held back from the public by the New York City Department of Health (NYC DOH) and are currently not available. They may the target of a future New York State Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request by Reclaim The Records.
I found a name, now what?
Copies of New York City birth certificates from 1909 and earlier are held at the New York City Municipal Archives. You can order a copy from them online here. You can also view or print an uncertified copy of these earlier birth certificates for free by visiting your local FamilySearch Family History Center. Note that FamilySearch affiliate libraries do not have online access to view or print images of these certificates, only actual Family History Centers. This is because the New York City Municipal Archives currently refuses to let the public have easy access to these historical certificates and they are purposely limiting the usage agreement they signed with FamilySearch several decades ago.
Copies of New York City birth certificates from 1910 to the present are held at the New York City Department of Health (NYC DOH), not the Municipal Archives. At the moment, these certificates can only be obtained in certified form, not uncertified. NYC DOH is notoriously horrible about permitting public access to these records, even when they are more than a century old. They have strict rules about what kinds of documentation you may need to present to them to even potentially obtain a certificate, even if the record is from a close relative, but their staff often misinterprets their own rules and are infamous for arbitrarily denying people's applications. If you wish to attempt to order a certificate from 1910 to the present, you can try to do so here. You may have slightly better luck if you go in person to make your request.
This data is in the public domain. There are no usage restrictions or copyrights attached to it. Feel free to use it however you'd like. But if you put it on your website or transcribe it, Reclaim The Records would appreciate a reference note in your "about this database" source box, and/or a link back to our website, just to acknowledge the work and initiative that went into researching and releasing these records back to the public.
Thank you to New York City genealogist Jordan Auslander for initially alerting us to the existence of these records. Thank you to FamilySearch for donating the labor and digitization costs for these records.
For more information
For more information on the group Reclaim The Records, please visit our website at www.ReclaimTheRecords.org and sign up for our free e-mail newsletter. You can also Like Us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter at @ReclaimTheRecs. We're a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, and donations are welcome. :-)
- 2019-01-01 05:12:43
- New York
- language not currently OCRable
- Internet Archive Python library 1.8.1
- New York
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